Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Grand Victory - Packingham v. North Carolina

Monday, June 19th, 2017 marks an enormous step forward for SoS and Civil Rights Advocacy Groups everywhere. Earlier this week in the case of Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States deemed that law enforcement could not restrict internet access for anyone regardless of the severity of crime committed, citing that such actions were in violation of First Amendment Rights protecting free speech.

Many states across the nation revoke internet access to registered sex offenders, especially those on probation, making it a felony in some cases to so much as own a computer, smart device, or data-enabled cell phone. Aside from removing probationers from their right to speak, internet ban also eliminates any means of living successfully on probation, thus forcing probationers into a line of unavoidable probation violation and additional punishment. In Farrah's case, she was required to pay upwards of $1000 per month in combine monitoring and probation fees. Failure to pay said fees would result in imprisonment under conviction of violating probation. Yet, her livelihood in commissioned art was made unavailable to her by internet ban, and with most applications for employment residing strictly online, she was cut off from any means that would prevent her from violating the very system of rules that was enabling her to fail. Granting internet access to probationers is a major step in integrating them back into society and ensuring a proper path to rehabilitation can be obtained.

So what does this do for Farrah?

Unfortunately, while this is a landmark decision that will provide much good for many people, it came too late to help Farrah in the immediate future. Given that Farrah was imprisoned for her original crime and did not receive an additional sentence for probation violation, there is no case that can be made to reverse the prison sentence.

However, Farrah is slated to be placed back on probation pending her release from prison. But with this new federal standard in place, her access to the internet should remain intact and she will be allowed a means to support herself and with luck, return to her distant friends and family online.

Also, it should be stated that this decision by the SCOTUS is not a guaranteed change-all. As seen with such events in the past, this decision will set a precedent that will be interpreted differently and require varying amounts of time to implement between different states and justice departments. It could take up to a year to start seeing changes, and they may not be the changes we expect. It will be up to Civil Right organizations to continue to monitor and push these new regulations into an amicable application.

Despite the issues, this occasion is still very much a victory for Save Our Sisk and we're excited to see the changes to come. Our fight is not over, however! We're in close communication with Farrah and still working to ensure that she can one day make it home safely. There is much to do, but at the very least, this case tells us that we are not alone. Our fight has more hope than ever.

Be strong. Keep moving. Stay excellent.

--SSG Ops.

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